Judith Simon Prager | What the dolphin said

Prager: When I started writing the book, I was just going to document my own experience. But—and first let me give a spoiler alert!—after I learned that Apollo had died, I was completely disconsolate because I thought that was it; the end of the communication. I’d gone to be with him, and I hadn’t been able to understand his communication, and now he was dead. I remember being home and thinking, “I don’t know why I even went through this whole exercise—the long, exhausting search to try to connect with him and understand his message, because I don’t even understand what my part in it is.” Then, one morning I woke up and I thought, “Well, I’ll write about it.” When I did, Apollo just started talking inside my head. I heard his thoughts very clearly. Of course, some of what I wrote is my own explanation of the science behind dolphin abilities, the way their brains are constructed, the way scientists have been able to figure out what is going on when they use echolocation, and so on. But, Apollo’s thoughts are not from me. There are things he says that I would never have said; I’ve never even thought. For example, at one point, Apollo says, “Choice is a lower form of understanding. When the understanding is profound, there is no choice to make.” When I read that the other day it just took my breath away. I didn’t even remember writing it. But he’s right. “Choice” describes decisions like whether to have pizza or pasta. But when your understanding is profound, there is no choice to make. You understand what you must do.

It was messages like this that made me feel I had some right to say I was speaking for the dolphins who are here to tell us something. I also took courage from a quote by Buckminster Fuller, the 20th century architect, systems theorist, and futurist, who said, “Dolphins may well be carrying information as well as functions critical to the regeneration of life on our planet.” Fuller, too, surmised the dolphins are here to tell us something. I also think that’s the reason so many people’s hearts leap up when they think about dolphins and whales; why there is this resurgence of interest in them. It’s because dolphins are here to remind us who we really are, what we are capable of, and that we forgot we’re all interconnected.

At the very end of the book, Apollo says, “Your experts say that we exhibit ‘altruism’ when we rescue you without expecting anything in return, and they wonder why. Now, you may see. We believe that we all meet in consciousness, in oneness. We believe that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us because we are connected by the invisible bonds of love and light. That is why, when one of us is beached, we join that one. It is the most natural thing for us, as it could be for you. To care for one another as if each one were a brother, a sister, a loved one. As if the other were yourself. Ultimately, you will wonder how anyone could do less.” That’s what I think they are telling us. And they do it without words. They say that words lock things in and make feelings and experiences too limited.  They seem to communicate on a higher level, one of the instant “ah-ha!” of insight, of knowing.

I was apprehensive about three potential criticisms when I wrote this book. The first is that dolphin-assisted therapy makes use of dolphins in captivity, and it might be construed that I was advocating more of that. I’m not. I don’t believe we should capture animals for our benefit. Nevertheless, I do believe that there are dolphins who want to be with us, who want to work with us, just as I also believe there are dogs, horses, and possibly other animals who take so much pride in being useful and helpful. I saw a horse who came into his own when he helped a child learn how to walk. The horse was so sensitive to exactly what the boy was feeling and seemed to become so thrilled with himself for his contribution to that boy. It was as if he said, “Look at me. I am important.” Matthew, too, told me that the last hour of Apollo’s life the trainers kept telling him, “Go rest,” because he’d been sick for months and it was clear that his health was deteriorating. But Apollo wouldn’t leave his work. He worked with a child until the last hour of his life. He used to butt the other dolphins away when the trainers would say, “Let Stormy come over here and take over this patient.” Apollo wouldn’t; he was committed to working with his patients. I believe it’s the same way that you and I are here for a purpose and our greatest frustration is when we are thwarted in fulfilling that purpose. So, even though I believe that we shouldn’t misuse animals, I’m not sure that dolphin healers are being misused. You couldn’t train a dolphin be a healer; they wouldn’t have anything to do with it if they weren’t interested in healing. The ones who want to do it are the ones who do.

There’s even a funny section in my book, where Apollo, who has just found his way to the healing center, wonders whether it is ethical for the dolphins to interfere with humans! He discusses it with a female dolphin he meets, who has also “wondered about the correctness of interfering with the progress of the upright beings.” But they decide the times warrant it. They feel, as I do, that we’re not “using” each other so much as partnering with them. When I met Matthew, he acknowledged this. He introduced me to Apollo as his partner and said “He is the smarter of the two of us. I always defer to him.” He told me about an instance where he signaled to Apollo to guide a boy around the lagoon by his foot, but Apollo refused and led the boy by his shoulder. Later, Matthew said to the boy’s mother, “This is really odd, but Apollo refused to guide your son by his foot.” The mother said, “Oh, I forgot to tell you. He had surgery on his foot a few months ago.” Apollo knew that without being told; somehow they just read us. If Apollo had been “trained” to be a healer, he would have followed Matthew’s instructions and received the fish reward, or whatever. But that wasn’t Apollo’s motivation. He wanted to do the right thing for the boy.

So that was my number-one concern in writing this book: that animal rights activists would say, “This is wrong; it shouldn’t be allowed.” I’m not saying that it should. I’m saying I met with a dolphin who had a message for us: That we can be more. We can remember we’re interconnected. We can meet in another place, and we can care for each other in another way.

The second thing that I was concerned about was that parents of children with autism and disabilities would think that I was trivializing their challenges, that “all you have to do is blah, blah, and the difficulties of your child’s condition will disappear.” Again, that’s not my intention. Having a child with disabilities in areas our culture considers important can be extremely challenging. I don’t intend to in any way over-simplify that. I just want to show the gift the dolphins give them by being able to access a child who—from our perspective—seems locked inside a body that won’t cooperate. Dolphins can, in many cases, connect emotionally with these children anyway, and that’s a gift.

The third thing I worried about is that scientists or marine biologists might not agree with everything I say dolphins are able to do, and I know that. Science has reached a certain point in their understanding of dolphin abilities, and I go farther based on my own sense of it. At the very end of the book Selene, my alter-ego, recoils from the words that Apollo had written through her. She had just keyed them in and they’ve appeared on the screen, but she knows they’re not hers. She reads them and pushes away from the screen. What if people argue over them? What if they disbelieve? What if they have their own agenda and dismiss it all? What if they think her foolish? And then her fingers type the words that allow her to claim her vision. They are more words from Apollo: “Say it is just a story then, a myth, a fable, a dream. A part of them will remember. A part of them will know.”

So I’ve pushed through these concerns in telling this story because it’s time for us humans to remember that we’re supposed to be connected. We’re supposed to be a different kind of being: not selfish, not self-aggrandizing, a part of the whole, not separate and apart. I believe that my experience with the dolphins showed me the way so I wrote it.

The MOON: I’m so glad you did. I was aware of your concerns while I was reading the book. I could empathize, because it’s an issue I struggle with myself. I was wanting to encourage you not to be afraid. You’re entitled to your viewpoint! Of course, it’s easier for me to tell you than to tell myself.

Prager: At one point in the book Sophia, Selene’s wise older friend, tells her “The truth is eternal. They can burn witches. They can crucify saintly people. They can try to squelch an idea different from theirs. Call it names or sit on it. Dress it up to appear unappealing or unholy or, if all else fails, they can stuff it into a box in the attic or the basement. But that idea will outlive them if it is meant to be.”

The MOON: Right, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the witches and the sensitives who are trying to communicate their truth without drawing fire.

Prager: A lot of scientists—Max Planck among them—have said that older scientists don’t change their minds in response to new theories, even when presented with credible evidence. More often, it’s just that the older generation dies and the young people have grown up with the newer theory. Although it’s very hard to give up your own beliefs, somehow we have to hope that new ideas are allowed to blossom and emerge. Then, too, these are not new ideas I’m presenting; they’re old ideas. They just have been buried under fears and selfishness. Now it’s time to awaken again. It’s really time to awaken.

The MOON: The healing center where Apollo lives is one where the dolphins can come and go if they want. Is that a fact? Are there centers like that?

Prager: There are some. In Australia there are natural lagoons or inlets where dolphins come and work with kids. They’re free to come and go at will. The center I visited reportedly opened the nets and let all the dolphins out as a hurricane approached because they didn’t want them slammed against the barriers of their very large lagoon. Although they let them go, afterwards the dolphins came back because it’s their home. Many of them were born there. It’s a different kind of captivity than Sea World; it’s not about performance for entertainment. The human-dolphin relationship is based on mutual respect that is quite interesting. It’s not perfect by any means. The dolphins do have “trainers,” whom I’m pretty hard on in the book because they keep thinking they’re instructing the dolphins, when the dolphins are actually so much smarter than the trainers and just indulging them. The dolphins are clearly there to do the good work and they do it so astonishingly. To see a child who has never spoken, speak; who has seldom felt understood, feel understood by the dolphins. I’m not saying that all children with autism should be taken to work with dolphins; I’m saying those of us who want to be therapists and healers should learn how the dolphins do it!

One of the things that Matthew said to me was that so often we humans have such expectations for these kids. As soon as the kids do something we want them to do, we say, “Good. Now do this.” The dolphins, though, have no performance expectations of the kids. They love them as they are, and somehow that’s even more freeing. Apollo describes the dolphins’ effect on special needs kids, “How they love us. All of them, especially those who are not like the rest, who struggle with restricted movements and words. We seem like them in many ways. Like some of them, we are clumsy. We cannot even hold things well in our fins. We drop a ball when we are meant to catch it. We cannot put on a shirt and button buttons. We do not wear shoes, and like these children, could not tie them even if we did. Some of them cannot walk, but neither can we and yet we are joyful and valued. Not able to talk. At least not like others–so that other humans understand you. Not a disability to a dolphin. We cannot talk and we are considered perfect just as we are. We are present and full of kindness, and everyone who encounters us leaves infinitely more joyful. All we need to do is be. We model that for everyone. But they, these little ones considered different, take it to heart.”

The MOON: Yeah, that’s beautiful.

Prager: So this is what Matthew told me that he has observed. The dolphins model unconditional love, acceptance, and joy, and it’s contagious. I believe their healing abilities are also related to the vibrations they emit. The human brain generally works in beta wavelengths when we’re conscious. But the alpha wavelength is much more relaxed, meditative, and sometimes creative. Alpha waves are called the “frequency bridge” between our conscious thinking (Beta) and subconscious (Theta) mind. They are known to promote feelings of deeper relaxation and contentment. The dolphins apparently function primarily in the alpha state and our brains entrain with theirs when we’re with them. A diver friend of mine said that every time she went out to dive, different captains of different boats would say, “If you encounter wild dolphins you will come up exhilarated.” Their contentment and joy is contagious.

I believe those kinds of changes in vibration are essential if we’re going to maximize our abilities to connect with other people and, collectively, rise to our potential, instead of feeling locked-in, small and fearful, and alone. We are all in this time on Earth together.

You know, when people do a good thing for someone else it can change their whole mood. For example, you see someone hold the door for a woman who has a stroller and groceries and can’t even get to the door, and when she says, “Oh, thank you!” the person who held the door lights up too. When we are in that kind of connection, we’re witnessing the best of humanity and it makes us feel so good. Doing something kind for someone else is the best self-care. It’s not a matter of getting a massage or a pedicure. Go and do something, just any beautiful thing, for someone else and you’ll see that your spirit is lifted and you shift your vibration. Dolphins do that for us. That’s part of their message: if we did that too, we’d feel better and the world wouldn’t have so many problems.

The MOON: I used to work with an intercity teen program, and one time the kids volunteered to staff a water station at a marathon. Our job was simply to hand cups of water to the runners as they passed. By the end of our shift, the kids were euphoric. They’d done something kind for several hundred people, most of whom had said thank you. As you said, if we were able to learn what the dolphins are here to teach us, we wouldn’t need the dolphins to teach us anymore.

Prager: Exactly right. The dolphins would love that. They don’t necessarily want to be teaching us; they’re the messengers. And I felt like I was a messenger writing the book. If the message is delivered and received I’ll be thrilled. I’ll go do something else. Then the dolphins can focus on the message of safe oceans. If we become more heart-centered beings, we will change our habits so that our oceans can be free of plastic and radiation and sonar blasts and acidification. That will resound to everyone’s greater well-being.



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